Quanto mi esalto quando incontro una parola che non conoscevo (ognuno ha le sue perversioni, ma se uno ne ha abbastanza e non si fissa su nessuna, allora è a posto – lo dice più o meno Freud).
La parola di oggi è esemplàstico.
Se l’è inventata di sana pianta Samuel Taylor Coleridge, il poeta inglese, nella sua Biographia Literaria del 1817 (che all’epoca fu accolta come una prova che l’autore si era fumato il cervello a forza di oppio).
“Esemplastic. The word is not in Johnson, nor have I met with it elsewhere.” Neither have, I. I constructed it myself from the Greek words, eis en plattein, to shape into one; because, having to convey a new sense, I thought that a new term would both aid the recollection of my meaning, and prevent its being confounded with the usual import of the word, imagination. [Capitolo X]
Il Capitolo XIII è poi tutto dedicato “all’immaginazione, o al potere esemplastico”, e chiarisce molto bene – almeno per quello che ho capito io – il suo punto di vista:
Des Cartes, speaking as a naturalist, and in imitation of Archimedes, said: give me matter and motion and I will construct you the universe. We must of course understand him to have meant: I will render the construction of the universe intelligible. In the same sense the transcendental philosopher says: grant me a nature having two contrary forces, the one of which tends to expand infinitely, while the other strives to apprehend or find itself in this infinity, and I will cause the world of intelllgences with the whole system of their representations to rise up before you. Every other science presupposes intelligence as already existing and complete: the philosopher contemplates it in its growth, and as it were represents its history to the mind from its birth to its maturity.
The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.
FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phaenomenon of the will, which we express by the word Choice. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.
Prima che mi tacciate di pedanteria, mi difenderò dall’accusa con le stesse argomentazioni di Coleridge:
“But this is pedantry!” Not necessarily so, I hope. If I am not misinformed, pedantry consists in the use of words unsuitable to the time, place, and company. The language of the market would be in the schools as pedantic, though it might not be reprobated by that name, as the language of the schools in the market. The mere man of the world, who insists that no other terms but such as occur in common conversation should be employed in a scientific disquisition, and with no greater precision, is as truly a pedant as the man of letters, who either over-rating the acquirements of his auditors, or misled by his own familiarity with technical or scholastic terms, converses at the wine-table with his mind fixed on his museum or laboratory […] [Capitolo X]
Unusual and new-coined words are doubtless an evil; but vagueness, confusion, and imperfect conveyance of our thoughts, are a far greater. [Capitolo XII]